Julie M. Rodriguez

Autonomous “Termite” Robots Work Together to Build with Bricks

by , 02/14/14

termites, termite robots, TERMES project, Harvard, School of Engineering and Applied Science, disaster relief, construction robots, autonomous robots, self-controlled robots

Computer scientists at Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Science have created a small army of self-controlled robots that follow the same principles as ants or termites to create impressive structures out of foam blocks. The TERMES robots can create towers, pyramids, and other structures out of miniature bricks without any sort of blueprint — even building themselves staircases to reach higher levels.

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Each robot is programmed with a simple set of rules modeled after the process termites and other social insects use to build complex structures without outside guidance. The robots rely on environmental cues to decide where to place bricks, without any need to track the number of bricks in the structure or how many other robots are collaborating on the project. The TERMES robots can continue working until their batteries die or they’re done laying bricks.

In the future, similar machines could be used in construction projects in environments that are too dangerous for human workers (for instance, underwater or even in outer space). They could also help with disaster relief efforts by laying down sandbags in flood zones. Unfortunately, those applications are likely years away — for now, scientists still have much to learn simply from observing and refining small-scale versions in the lab.

+ Self-Organizing Systems Research Group

Via Gizmodo

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1 Comment

  1. Ulises February 14, 2014 at 3:53 pm

    So, step by step, if machines take over all human activity, including art and science, what will happen to the organic body and its conditioned-to-work-and-think brain? Surely, will it decay? Is mankind-machines coexistence possible while people are fighting for jobs and resources: competition, nations, and so on? Anyway, what is the endeavour in which a robot cannot take part or channel at all? Why won’t the future automatons be alive? What is the fundamental difference between a mechanical structure, organic or inorganic, that imitates life and life itself? Is there any, virtual or real? If it said that there is a difference, is it just some kind of authority who defines and differentiates? Perhaps then, someday, will be a powerful automaton the one who will define life, its unique life, truth itself? That is, where does life begin and end? Therefore, where does death? Along these lines, there is a peculiar book, a preview in http://goo.gl/rfVqw6 Just another suggestion, far away from dogmas or axioms

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